Why the End of Bigoted “Checks and Balances” is Inevitable

Featured image description: White text on a pink background saying the blogpost title of “Why the End of Bigoted “Checks and Balances” is Inevitable”. To the right is the blog name in purple text as well as the logo (a golden neurodiversity symbol on top of a black trans symbol).

CW for transphobia, brief examples of bigotry impacting many other minority groups (no detail)

Hi all,

I’m writing today’s post to talk about something important after recent news. Namely, around the concept of “checks and balances” which is one of the anti-trans dog whistles that was used by Liz Truss in her first Women’s Equality & Human Rights Committee meeting in April 2020. It was then reinforced in a leaked report in the June 14th, 2020 issue of the Sunday Times. The original quote from the meeting is as follows:

“…making sure that transgender adults are free to live their lives as they wish without fear of persecution, while maintaining the proper checks and balances in the system.”

The usage of “checks and balances” here underpins a lot of fundamental issues that are not just limited to transgender rights. Hence I’m going to explain why this impacts everybody and what to do about it.

It implies the myth that we aren’t all human or worthy of respect, despite the precise opposite being the case.

We are all human and broadly have similar desires and needs. We all desire a good quality of life in whatever forms that each of us wants. We all need access to the resources that will help us get to a good position that satisfies us. We all have human rights and dignity that we are entitled to – and deserve.

A lot of privileged people don’t realise this on a deep level about minority groups, mainly because they’ve been unknowingly conditioned to think that way. Whether it’s the erasure of British colonial history (leading to many denying the UK is racist) to transgender people labelled as predatory and dangerous by the media, the undertones of “us vs them,” “normal vs abnormal” and “familiar vs strange” exist. When if all of this is put aside, we are all human and possess much deeper commonalities then we think.

It implies that restrictions will be put in place, even if broader society denies this.

This is the result of the implications set above. The “checks and balances” reinforce people’s misguided perceptions of abnormality in minority groups. It is an approach intended to restrict freedom and encourage conformity, “checking” that people are adhering to their wishes while trying to “balance” the reaction to stop the masses realising it’s discrimination.
Of course, this does have consequences:

  • For trans people, it means having to convince cisgender people to agree with them that they are their gender  (which is very dehumanising and is why the GRA and NHS trans pathways aren’t fit for purpose).

  • For disabled people, it means constant hostility from the state who run on the assumption that social security fraud is rampant and people must not cost the state anything, regardless of the outcome on disabled people.

  • For homeless people, it means having to continually to prove that they are “really homeless” and nobody else can help them due to artificially constrained supply of both housing and support for addressing issues.

These kind of issues apply to every minority in some form even if they aren’t directly targeted by certain “checks and balances” agendas (ie. Systematic racism, migrants from abroad). At the time of writing though, trans people are the target with the dogwhistle “checks and balances” to signify this.

The idea that “checks and balances” can be put in place to regulate minority groups for any length of time highlights one of the fundamental flaws with conservative ideology. Change is inevitable.

In the past, a lot of things Westerners take for granted today were not standard in the past and our ancestors had to fight for them. Examples include women being able to vote, decriminalising homosexuality and abolishing slavery. These weren’t given to us, we had to fight for them.

Conservatives are the gatekeepers of these rights and only because they have more influential power in the world, but are vulnerable when collective action is taken. Previous generations fought for change, and we got it – and this did include violence and riots.

Of course, the fight isn’t over. Voter suppression still happens, trans rights are under attack, and systematic racism is far and wide (hence the current Black Lives Matter movement). This is before mentioning how many rights Westerners have are non-existent in former European colonies to this day. This is due to said conservative colonialists forcing their “checks and balances” across the world.

We will win, but we have to work for it.

The status quo cannot be upheld forever. It is simply not possible. The “checks and balances” that are standard now to suppress minorities will destroy itself naturally as more people begin to understand that we are human. This includes many of those that initially enforced said “checks and balances” in the first place.

But that does mean we have to get political such as – sending letters to political figures, running campaigns, spread accurate information on and offline as well as taking to the streets and get allies on board. It will be worth the struggle.

Milla xx

P.S. If you enjoyed this post and have the financial means to do so, please consider sending a donation to me on my Ko-fi to help me stabilise my life and start my medical transition. If not, no worries. Thank you so much for reading!

What’s in a Name? – Redux –

Hi, I’m Milla.

I finally got around to doing something I’ve thought about doing for a while – rebranding my blog.

On this blog, I will be focusing primarily on my lived experience of being autistic and trans going forward. I’ve been doing this for the last year or so without changing the name, but now it is official.

More specifically, I aim to blog about:

– Lived experiences, particularly as I work to rebuild my life
– Rambles that will be looked at from the lense of lived experience and intersectionality
– Political rambles, mainly around UK politics but would like to do more
– Guides and advice (ie. For transitioning in the UK)
– Anything else that wouldn’t get aired in UK mainstream media
– Links to any other things I do

Why the change?

I used to focus primarily on autism but moved away from that over time. This is mainly because the experiences of those percieved as autistic boys is very well trodden ground if it does not include a trans perspective. Therefore some originality is needed. This revamp symbolises this and makes it more official.

I am also hoping to primarily channel my online political thoughts (and more serious posts) onto my blog alongside positivity so that social media is a more positive space for myself and others. This doesn’t mean I’ll be spamming politics blogposts but what it is mean is that I can consolidate my thoughts better.

I have gone back and corrected pronouns on older blogposts as well as deleted some that don’t reflect who I sm today or I wish to rewrite (such as my blogpost on being aspec, which now I’ve transitioned I am unsure if I still feel the same way). So some reposts will go up at some point.

Why the change?

When I first started almost three years ago, I was anonymous because I was a socially anxious mess. I had no idea who I really was and internalised a lot of problematic beliefs. This was mainly due to being mistreated growing up and hence becoming vulnerable to toxic crowds as a result. I also wasn’t engaged with the disability community much so struggled to meet my needs but was also unaware of the diverse range of lived experience out there. I preferred anonymity as a result of my circumstances then, hence I chose the pseudonym Subtle.

Nowadays, Milla is proud to be themselves largely due to what I realised, discovered and learnt since starting this blog. I’m confident in who I am and despite everything, life has never been better. That said, I don’t have patience for bullshit and will be quite direct with that. I’m trans. I’m autistic. I’m an intersectional feminist. I don’t speak for everyone with my lived experience but said experiences are part of who I am.

Here is the new logo (with image description):

ID: The logo for Trans Autistic Feminist. The logo consists of a “Light it Up Gold” neurodiversity helic on top of a black trans symbol. The background is pink and the blog title “Trans Autistic Feminist” is written in purple below.

Here is a sample featured image with image description):

ID: A sample featured image for “Trans Autistic Feminist.” On the right is the blog logo which is identical to what is in the above logo image.

To the left is white text in front of a pink background that will be the title of the blogpost. This one says “Noise-Cancelling Liberation.”

I have also changed the layout a bit to reflect this change, but at the time of writing is still a work in progress.

I hope y’all continue to stick around.

Best,
Milla xx

Black Lives Matter (including resources & links)

Featured ID: Whote text on a black background that says “#BlackLivesMatter (including Resources and Links)”

Major TW police brutality, racism, ableism, murder, white supremacy

Hi all,

Firstly, apologies again for the silence on here for a bit. My blog was on haitus due to my personal circumstances (which will be discussed another time).

That said, given the current climate that can not be ignored, I need to make something clear here given that not everyone who reads my blog follows my Twitter.

Black Lives Matter.

Systematic racism is not normal nor should it be tolerated.

The systematic murder of black people by the police and other government forces for existing is not OK.

We wouldn’t have LGBTQ+ rights without the black trans women that led the Stonewall riots all those years ago. And yes said riots were violent just as the current riots are.

Autistic black people are just group of black disabled people who are even more vulnerable to police brutality due to how systematic racism and ableism intersect.

Fuck fascism and all who enable it. If you are “anti-antifa” you are pro-fascism. Antifa isn’t an organisation, it is short for anti-fascism. Hence you out yourself as a fascist and a danger to minorities. Dismantling racism is key to atopping fascism. You can’t have one without the other.

You need to do your bit to show support especially if you are white. And that dosen’t mean a performative black square on social media and call it a day. Or posting #AllLivesMatter, “the cops aren’t that bad” and other dismissive nonsense.

It means:

– boost voices of black people especially those who are multiply marginalised

– hire black people and donate to their crowdfunders

– educating yourself on systematic racism and colonialism and how it persists to this day

(This ESPECIALLY applies to white British people in particular. Many current geopolitical conflicts (ie. Jammu and Kashmir) alongside racism in UK government policy (ie. Windrush, Brexit) are largely because white Brits haven’t took the time understand British history)

– attend protest marches where possible

– sign petitions and boost protest related content

– holding the racists in your personal life to account

Here are some resources to help you:

Links to BLM sites:

https://blmsites.carrd.co/

https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/

https://blacklivesmatter.com/

https://allblm.carrd.co/

Petitions to sign:
https://twitter.com/notlikethemonth/status/1267830196272459776?s=19

Bail funds to donate to:
https://twitter.com/sorrybythway/status/1267469168300998656?s=19

YouTube ad donation videos:

A 1 hour long YouTube video project where all ad revenue will go towards BLM causes for those who can’t donate themselves:

https://youtu.be/bCgLa25fDHM

Note: You MUST turn off adblock and let the ads fully run to be effective.

For repeat watches only do so after watching 3-5 videos of differing lengths to stop it being marked as spam.

And here is a thread of other similar donation vids:
https://twitter.com/iDiminies/status/1267550974190764033?s=19

Resource for disabled people regarding protests:
https://twitter.com/gender_goblin/status/1267215844754567168?s=19

UK specific anti-racism resources:

“Racism in the UK: What they didn’t teach us in school” instagram post with lots of starting points for research: https://www.instagram.com/p/CA53Q_WDl9O/?igshid=14acojkudj5xg

Black Lives Matter UK Reading List:
https://twitter.com/LDNYoungLabour/status/1268160429999697920?s=19

Another non-UK specific google drive resource with more black activism and history info:
https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0Bz011IF2Pu9TUWIxVWxybGJ1Ync

If you play video games, here is a database of black devs to support:
http://www.blackgamedevs.com/

If there’s any more things people would like me to add to this list, please leave a comment. I’ll make sure to add them 🙂

Once again, Black Lives Matter.

Fuck racism, fascism and white supremacy.

Human lives come above all else. Businesses can be rebuilt once lost but lives cannot.

Milla xx

On the Subject of Trans Women, Refuges + Terf Dogwhistles

Featured image description: Rows of makeshift beds in a large, well-lit room. The duvets are in are various colours.

CN for transphobia, terf discussion – including direct quotes from a terf blogpost, domestic abuse, trauma, death mention, detransition rhetoric, ableism, gaslighting, toxic masculinity

Hi all, 

Today is going to be quite a long post for many reasons. Mainly that I’m going to address the elephant in the room in the eyes of terfs – about trans women accessing “single-sex spaces” – including women’s refuges. This is from the perspective of somebody who got barred from one when feeling domestic abuse. I am now only just able to start coming to terms with this as I finally escaped my abusers. Furthermore, with the recent news that the UK government plan to roll back trans rights this year (starting with trans kids), I feel now is the time to publish this.

This is a lengthy blogpost as I’m going to detail things extensively – not just my personal experiences. There are also screenshots and quotes from transphobes – because yes, despite what people want to claim transphobia is still an issue in women’s refuges. While there are women’s refuges that are inclusive of trans people, there are a lot who aren’t.  

My escape was a long time coming due to many systematic barriers I faced. Here is a link to that post, so I don’t have to go into detail again here.  

So why am I writing a blog post on this specifically? Well, it’s for two reasons – firstly, so myself and others can source this article where appropriate because the voices of trans women are being silenced (ironically from those complaining they are being silenced, which is nonsense).

Secondly, because I wish to elaborate on the above a bit more as it was only through time that I was able to accept that I was rejected on the grounds of transphobia. I had previously thought it was just because they didn’t feel they could support me for any other reasons. This post also clarifies a lot of the dog whistles transphobes use – whether they are terfs or just random people spreading rhetoric they don’t understand.  

That said, the refuge as well as the staff I engaged with there are kept anonymous in this piece.  

The critical thing to remember is the trans women’s needs are often similar to cis women’s  

There is much misunderstanding about the needs of trans women and what being trans is. Hence a lot of beliefs services users have are rooted in transphobia whether they realise it or not.  

Trans feminine people generally wish to be treated like cis women. This is because the way wider society perceives us means that we are victims of systematic sexism and misogyny from those around us. This often includes years of mistreatment from cis men – often for prolonged periods of time in very similar aspects that cis women face – especially when other marginalisations are involved ie. Disability and race.  

This is something that affects all feminine presenting people, especially those that “pass” as a cis woman. Here is what I mean: 

Image is of an email from a worker at the refuge sent on Thursday August 8th 2019 at 12:03pm. Parts of the email have been censored to protect privacy. The rest of the text says:

“Hi Milla,
 
Please can you email me the information we discussed yesterday. It may not be appropriate to see you at the centre but I am looking into further support for you.
Kind regards,
[redacted], Liason Worker”

“It may not be appropriate to see you at the centre” is vague and was probably said to try to hedge the bad news. This was the first red flag, hence I enquired.

Image is of an email from a worker at the refuge sent on Thursday August 8th 2019 at 20:06pm. Parts of the email have been censored to protect privacy. The rest of the text says:

Hi [Liason Worker],

I have attached two files – a copy of [redacted] as well as a log of all the recent things that have happened, updated to today.
 
Could you please explain to me what you mean by “it may not be appropriate to see you at the centre?”
 
Kind regards,
Milla [redacted]

Note that I am supplying sensitive information, including logs – one of the critical things domestic abuse survivors have to compile. How exactly is it “inappropriate” that a trans woman is trying to access support?  

This person then replied with the following:  

Image is of an email from a worker at the refuge sent on Friday August 9th 2019 at 2:05pm. Parts of the email have been censored to protect privacy. The rest of the text says:

“Hi Milla,
 
Thank you for the information I will look at it and discuss the best course of action in conjunction with our Advice Worker. Our transgender policy states that we can only engage face to face contact with a women who is past the surgical stage of her transition. This said I am very concerned about the information you have shared with me and feel you need more support. We will be able to offer phone support and possible sign posting to another agency. We have no intention in giving up on your case but your situation is unique to us and we need to offer you the most appropriate support possible.
 
I will be in touch soon
 
Kind regards
[redacted], Liason Worker”

I would like to draw particular attention to this quote – “Our transgender policy states we can only engage face-to-face contact with a women who is past the surgical stage of her transition.”  

This is why the refuge rejected me. It wasn’t a case of “may not” – it was “was not,” but I had to push for an answer. The problems with this policy – assuming it’s genuine – is that it’s completely unrealistic only to accept post-op trans people. Somebody’s genitals don’t come into this frankly unless people know about it – or suspect that somebody is trans even though said judgements are often very inaccurate. It is a de-facto benchmark for what many think qualifies someone as transgender – and frankly, this obsession with what genitals a trans person has by cis people is quite creepy.  

In reality, it is not a realistic benchmark to maintain even on a purely practical level. For example, in the UK, trans people have to wait years before they can even have an initial appointment, let alone a surgery consultation. This is because of the long waiting times, horrendous gatekeeping that leads to wasted appointments and the overall administrative nightmare that system is. The only real way to get medical treatment in the UK promptly and safely is to go private. In the case of surgery, this usually means going abroad. For many trans people – especially those from poorer backgrounds – going private isn’t an option. I did call this out (though not in much detail). 

Image is of an email from a worker at the refuge sent on Friday August 9th 2019 at 2:05pm. Parts of the email have been censored to protect privacy. The rest of the text says:

Hello [redacted],
 
Thank you for getting back to me.
 
I am really confused as to why this policy is in place. It’s not my fault I haven’t even had the opportunity to discuss surgery with a professional (and won’t for at least 4-5 years unless I go private) and would also discriminate against me if I decided against surgery. This policy also discriminates against intersex people who happen to present feminine/grow up feminine and have a penis.
 
I know this is legal under the Equality Act (so long as the purpose is to achieve a “legitimate aim” which I assume is the case here) so I am not surprised that this has come up. I would appreciate an explanation to calm my anxiety. I’m worried if I am kicked out of my home I may have to go somewhere where predatory cis men are such as mixed gender homeless shelters (and that would be genuinely dangerous for me because [redacted].
 
I would be and feel safest within a women’s refuge especially as I want and need to be treated like a cis woman as much as possible. Is this kind of policy typical for women’s refuges? If I was on hormones already, could fully pass as a cis woman and had breasts as a result of HRT I probably would never have disclosed I’m trans in light of this.
 
I also would find traveling to a refuge further away difficult especially if I’m in a meltdown which is what would most likely happen if I am kicked out of [redacted] before I have somewhere to go. [rest of this paragraph has been redacted].
 
Am I right in assuming the appointment I booked for [redacted] is cancelled as a result? I see no point keeping it if I would not be allowed into the refuge to talk face-to-face due to this policy.
 
Apologies for all of the questions and the bombardment of my anxiety-ridden thoughts. I also apologise if there are contractual obligations in place that mean you aren’t able to provide me with answers in depth or at all. Feel free to ignore certain questions if you can’t answer them.
 
Kind regards,
Milla [redacted]

I was a bit of a trauma mess with this response as I wasn’t fully processing what was going on. Primarily because – at the time – I was not used to travelling extensively across the UK, and I feared what would happen if I had to leave (see the fourth paragraph). But I was quite clear I was scared and reading this back it’s heartbreaking. Though for anybody trying to access services, oversharing fears, intimate details and triggers are essential to get taken seriously.  Here is their final reply to me:

Image is of an email from a worker at the refuge sent on Friday August 9th 2019 at 2:05pm. Parts of the email have been censored to protect privacy. The rest of the text says:

“Hi Milla,

My colleague is currently reading your information. We agree that we need to complete a DASH ( a risk assessment on your safety) which we will do over the phone. Once this is completed, we will know where to refer you to. We are thinking [redacted] who can offer outreach support.
 
Anyone going to refuge would need to move out of area which I know will not work for you. Sadly, refuges are biologically gender specific for safety reasons.
 
As a women’s centre we are only funded to work with biological women but we are more than willing to support you over the phone as we will not turn away an individual who needs help. We are approaching your case with sensitivity and are trying to offer you as much support as we are able.
 
Are you willing to complete a risk assessment over the phone? We offer this service to women so we are not discriminating against you or offering you a lesser service. My colleague [redacted] is able to offer you a phone appointment on [redacted]. This would be in place of the scheduled face to face appointment next Friday.
 
I have left a voice mail with [redacted] but have not heard anything back. I will chase them again next week. If you hear from them please let us know.
 
I hope this answers some of your questions.
 
Kind regards,
[redacted], Liaison Worker

They offered the risk assessment – but I never emailed them again after this because I was devastated. Hence, I didn’t have the assessment, and subsequently, my escape is now even further away. It was not long after this that I felt I needed to look for a job to escape of which I did get one. But I was ultimately let go from the job which was inevitable.  

There are also mentions in here about biology and safety, which are no doubt rooted in believing myths about trans people. For example:  

“Sadly, refuges are biologically gender specific for safety reasons.”  

“As a women’s centre we are only funded to work with biological women”  

Here are some articles that debunk the gender binary and the idea that they “biological men/women” myths, because they are not accurate. Many people who believe in the gender binary are uninformed due to what they are taught in school but don’t care. However, there are people that use the myth as an argument to roll back trans rights and enforce strict gender rules. This is ultimately the goal of transphobes – whom are mainly conservative people.  

Article 1: https://qz.com/1007198/the-myth-that-gender-is-binary-is-perpetuated-by-a-flawed-education-system/   

Article 2: https://medium.com/@QSE/the-xx-xy-lie-our-social-construction-of-a-sex-and-gender-binary-4eed1e60e615  

It’s examples like this that support the reality that the majority of cis women support trans women but lack the understanding to provide proper support. Perhaps if service staff had improved training, then they would feel more able to deal with trans women as many do not need as much specialist support as people think. This is what I initially thought – as it is not incorrect – and used to justify to myself why the refuge excluded me as there was no more evidence either way. 

I will further discuss this on page 2.

On COVID-19, Home Working and Internalised Ableism

Content warning for: internalised ableism, COVID-19

Hi all,

In this post, I’m gonna talk a bit about the coronavirus and work today. The reason why is that the way employers have handled the coronavirus is both a source of frustration and opportunity for disabled people. I am going to reference my experience with my last employer to help illustrate this point.

My past experience

I had found out a few weeks ago my former employer is now working from home as a response to the coronavirus outbreak. All the team would not be in the office and could only be contacted through written mediums (or Zoom if they needed a meeting).

Yet when I worked there, I was never able to get any regular time out of the office to work privately in a quiet environment. This was an accommodation I needed for my sensory needs. The office is very overstimulating as a lot happens day to day, so even working outside the office elsewhere would have been OK. But I truly needed to be able to work from home at least two days a week.

I was not able to deal with the multitasking of various work and dealing with clients and an overstimulating. Not always being in the office to work would have taken the pressure off me. They felt it was “integral to the role” that I was in the office to answer questions even in an unsuitable environment.

Yet in light of COVID-19, the idea that my presence is “integral” to the role is nonsense. If I still worked for them, I would now be working from home too. My part was very similar to theirs. I would have worked from home in an environment that suited me, and I could regulate when I talk to people on my terms. Yet I wasn’t able to have this when I worked for them as a reasonable adjustment? Even Occupational Health agreed – their report was useless from my perspective. This doesn’t make sense, right? Well actually, it does.

I have no personal grief towards my former employer about anything. Even if they did accommodate me in this way, I still would have lost the job as it was unsuitable for me for many other reasons. However, these anti-home working attitudes are the kind of thinking that employers have systematically – even inclusive ones. I’m now going to explain what’s wrong with it and what employers can do to get around it.

Ableist expectations

There is the ableist expectation regarding work that employees must have a physical presence in the workplace period. There is this expectation that workers should be expected to relocated for all roles hence there are countries like the UK where the economy is centralised to a few specific regions. In the UK, the region is mainly London and the surrounding counties.

These expectations are so deep that employers – even genuinely inclusive ones that do try their best – do not realise the true extent. The foundations they use for employee expectations are rooted in ableism that harms disabled people. This is systematic ableism – namely that the design of the capitalist workplace itself discriminates against disabled people.

Abled employers barring disabled people from working – but then changing their minds when it affects them – is a blatant double standard. Yet when you point this out, many people will have no idea and cite the “extraordinary circumstances” of the virus. Yet they do not realise that disabled people have been dealing with these “extraordinary circumstances” for decades. Here’s what I mean:

  • We’ve learnt not to expect public services to help us correctly, and we have to fight for access.
  • We’ve learnt that communicating over the internet is more accessible for us than in-person events because we often can’t attend them.
  • We’ve learnt the importance of self-care and curating our environments, so we don’t force ourselves to tolerate an unhealthy environment that worsens our disabilities.
  • We’ve learnt to take extra steps to look after ourselves medically – whether that be medication, extra caution in daily life or allowing our bodies to rest when it tells us.
  • We’ve learnt to expect to be failed by the world of work repeatedly – bracing for the worst whenever we work for a new employer and being genuinely surprised when we find a genuinely inclusive one.
  • We’ve learnt to deal with a social security system that would rather deprive us of all support than give us what we’re entitled to.
  • We’ve accepted deep down we will have structural societal barriers to overcome, and we have to learn to deal with an inaccessible world that doesn’t value our lives.

Many disabled people accept that reality, but others don’t. Others continue to push their boundaries and force themselves to fit into the mould of broader society, even if deep down, they feel like a burden. And they know that the ableds around them mostly see them as a burden too – especially financially.

This is called internalised ableism – learned ableist messages from broader society. It’s not anyone’s fault for internalising them – whether it be disabled jobseekers or abled employers. Still, it does mean they need to take steps to unlearn it. This is because systematic ableism is underpinned by internalised ableism of most of those that participate in it.

I genuinely believe that there are employers out there that do embrace inclusivity. They do sincerely try to recruit staff from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. However, to be genuinely inclusive, it also means unlearning the ableism that has impacted their thinking towards work. This means unlearning internalised ableism as it benefits everyone.

How to be genuinely inclusive

This means redesigning jobs so that if ableds can suddenly work from home in the event of an emergency, disabled people can do so at all times so we can manage our conditions. For most office-based jobs, this will be possible. This means ditching the expectations of having to relocate staff unless it’s necessary.

In the UK, graduates shouldn’t have to move to London or a select number of other places just to get jobs that are right for their skills. People shouldn’t have to rely on jobs available in person because big employers will not offer home working. This is even when their response to coronavirus proves they can.

In my case, it meant that I didn’t truly need to be in the office the whole time. I knew that from the beginning. I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle it all the time. Yet they saw it as “integral to the role”. Hence, I had to either fit into what the employer wanted or eventually get let go. Quitting wasn’t an option for various reasons.

The results of not accommodating disabled people are apparent to those that pay attention. Alongside disabled people being out of work, many of us are highlighting the hypocritical behaviour of many employers now becoming blatantly clear due to the outbreak. Many of us are at best, annoyed or at worst, angry. Though bitterness is more often than not what people see.

The feeling of seeing yet again how accommodations are only consistently given to employees when ableds need it. However, when disabled people need it, they are denied, even when it’s against the law. That’s why it takes longer for us to get jobs generally and struggle to maintain them. That’s why many of us go self-employed or hide our diagnoses at work. Because it is often safer for us to do so – whether it to manage our quality of life generally or simply make working possible.

For any disabled people out there who can work reading this – take note. You now have a powerful argument to the state to employers to get you the accommodations that you are entitled to.

Good employers should accept this reality and work to further accommodate disabled staff. Whereas bad faith employers have expertly played themselves, and now it will be harder for them to deny accommodations. The evidence will be out there for all to find over an internet search (like this).

The future is homeworking – not just for disabled people can we can actually work, but also for ableds to improve their quality of life too. It benefits everyone – and it starts by learning the lessons from coronavirus. The world of work doesn’t have to be the way it is now. It doesn’t have to go back to old habits once the coronavirus is no longer a threat. Work can be better. It must be.

That’s all,

Milla xx

The Case for Not Giving Unsolicited Advice

Content note: examples of ableism and transphobia used to support arguments

Hi all,

One of the things that have been an issue as of late for me is something that marginalised people typically face when trying to improve a situation. I’m talking about unsolicited advice. Today I’m gonna explain in this blogpost why people really need to lay off with advice when it’s not explicitly sought. To provide supporting examples, I’m going to use my ongoing homelessness situation as it is an example of a situation where unsolicited advice is not helpful.

It’s not helpful

A lot of people who give unsolicited advice often do not understand the complexities of a situation. This comes from two angles. Firstly, the individual. Each person has their own individual circumstances that mean their case is unique in the eyes of professionals. While there are common themes in people’s stories, there are personal stories and access needs that make each case different. For some people, this makes their matters more complicated. For many, this also makes their cases sensitive hence details aren’t disclosed readily. This means that many people who other help do not know these complexities, which means their advice is unhelpful – despite good intentions.

The second angle is that many people do not realise how government policy – especially by capitalist, right-wing governments – has led to services being underfunded and understaffed. Hence demand often outstripping supply. So things are going to take longer because there isn’t enough money or people available to help. Furthermore, a lot of privileged people will not see this reality because they haven’t experienced it. Many people don’t have supportive family or friends nor the money and privilege to buy support quickly. Furthermore, many people get gatekept by professionals for who they are – such as trans people getting barred from single-gender spaces because they are trans.

The same things are said over and over again

Remember, when I said there are common themes providers find when people are close to getting the support they need? One of them is that they have been failed by services repeatedly. People expect solutions to be simple and happen instantly hence make things sound so easy – and this gets upsetting. I’ve had multiple people tell me to “get [my] housing sorted first” before doing anything else. One person even cited Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

These people do not understand the systematic barriers I’ve faced and the fact I need a lot of support to do this – something which I’ve only started to get after moving halfway across the UK (aka drastic action). It’s very unsettling that people act it is that simple for everyone. Still, for many in complex situations like mine, it merely isn’t, and it feels dismissive to have it oversimplified in this way. This is often done repeatedly, by well-meaning sources who don’t know each other so cannot discuss cases in depth.

Frequently hearing the same advice is demoralising and eventually becomes grating. They are scripts – often used to mock neurodivergent people when they are using them – yet ableds seem to get away with using them. It’s a double standard that impacts neurodivergent people in general, but it’s particularly noticeable here.

People feel an obligation to help, even when they can’t

I’ve found when I’ve talked to people, they do sincerely mean well and want to help. And that is a good thing and they deserve credit for that. But in many cases, they can’t and therefore give advice because they feel a social obligation to be helpful. Hence they provide the information to ease this pressure on themselves.

When people vent, they are often not asking for help. Yes, we’ve likely tried what you think is obvious and for many reasons, we haven’t got anywhere. You don’t have an obligation to help us a lot of the time. And if you do, we will often ask directly. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to listen and let us vent. That is more helpful than any advice nine times out of ten.

Sometimes we are gatekept, other times there are genuine access needs or extra barriers that we can’t overcome. A good example is how many services only offer a telephone contact method which is not accessible for many people. Therefore, a lot of emergency/crisis support is not accessible, like support lines. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been given crisis lines by people trying to support me only for me to explain that I can’t access it. I’ve had to start preemptively telling people not to offer them which has finally got people to back off.

Asserting needs is key for people in complex situations

Marginalised people have to assert their needs preemptively a lot – if it is even safe to do so. We aren’t “typical clients” – we are people dealing with the most challenging periods of our lives and we have additional support needs. So yes, that means telling providers not to contact people via the phone in advance before they suggest it if possible. It means telling providers what our triggers are in advance, so they aren’t likely to set them off by mistake. Sometimes it means not saying anything at all about certain aspects if possible. To give one example, trans people who have passing privilege are usually better off not disclosing to services they are transgender as it risks discrimination.

Good people will accommodate our needs. Good people will respect our boundaries. Good people will understand that unsolicited advice is often counterproductive. Good people that don’t understand any of this yet will take the time to learn and help their staff be better at supporting vulnerable people. If you’ve read this article, that’s an excellent sign. The world needs good people and active support networks. One way to do that is understanding the lived experience of service users. Hopefully, this post has gone a little way towards this goal.

That’s all for today,
Milla xx

For Trans People, Legal Recognition is Important. Here’s Why

Featured image description: A variety of colourful passports for many different countries including the UK, Switzerland, Japan, South Korea, the United States and Denmark.

CN in blog post for misgendering, transphobia discussion

Hi all,

Today is gonna be a fairly short post compared to normal a few reasons – one of which is my personal situation, but also because…

…I am finally legally female on my passport.

This is a really big deal for me for a few reasons as now the gender marker on it matches how I present. But to help others understand the importance of this I’m gonna explain a bit more on a general level in today’s post before I go and celebrate.

So why are legally correct documents like passports a big deal for a trans person?

Safety

This is the obvious one. Somebody who has to supply ID for anything can now show a document without the worry of being outed. It’s a form of protection as many cis people place great importance on what documents say. It is part of the quick judgements that people make when they serve people in a shop – such as when checking ID to buy age-restricted products.

Other people use it as an argument to invalidate people’s gender identities and by being able to change it makes their argument completely null. This is because many cis people would otherwise agree as they place great importance on cis people recognising somebody being trans (which isn’t ok but is a whole other thing).

Ability to travel more easily

Another reason is being able to travel abroad and emigrate more easily as a correctly gendered passport is less likely to cause issues when trying to get through customs control. This means travelling becomes a lot more viable for trans people again as before the options were limited to domestic travel as well as certain other legal arrangements where border checks are reduced (ie. Within the EU).

If the gender marker matches how somebody presents, customs officers are much more likely to let people through without any issues. Whereas if somebody presents a passport with a marker that doesn’t match how they present (ie. A trans woman with a passport that says M under sex/gender), they will likely run into issues including having to out themselves to strangers.

Of course, this issue does not apply where transphobia is widespread and/or has been illegalised in law even for those that have fully transitioned – however, most trans people wouldn’t risk going to many of these places (ie. The Middle East) anyway.

That said, the exception of this relates to for the nonbinary X gender marker in countries that aren’t super LGBTQ+ friendly and gender diversity is embraced. For this reason, I personally wouldn’t get one despite identifying as non-binary. However, the option should be made available because for some this is not something they can overlook.

To overcome systematic barriers

Additionally, and most importantly, a correctly gendered passport can allow for some of the barriers trans people face being systematically overcome. For me, I am now finally able to move forward with my homelessness situation as my misgendered passport was only one of many systematic barriers I was facing. The anxiety it caused stopped me from getting anywhere with housing.

It also depends on the laws of individual countries. In the UK, the path to getting a passport’s gender marker legally changed is much easier than getting a Gender Recognition Certificate. For the former, you only need a specifically worded doctor’s letter as evidence, whereas the latter needs considerably more documents. It was why there were previous plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act.

As I write this, the GRA reforms in the UK have been stalled outside of Scotland so it is unlikely the process for getting a GRC will be made any easier. However, in practice, few situations will ever require somebody to show their birth certificate when an updated passport or driving license will be sufficient instead. So as long as trans people in the UK can find a doctor willing to write them this letter, they have a way to go around most of the barriers an incorrect birth certificate will cause. This is in the UK, I can’t speak for other countries where the processes are different.

Hence, in conclusion

Being able to change gender markers on legal documents is life-saving. This means that the processes in each country must be made more accommodating for others, including trans youth as well as for non-binary identities. And by extension for foreigners too including those seeking naturalisation or even just to visit as tourists.

For me personally, my legal transition is effectively complete aside from the GRC which I may return to in the future if I do need to get it but in day to day life I’m covered at this point. The right for somebody to have documents that match the life they live is everyone’s right.

That’s all for today,

Milla xx (now legally female as of 07/02/2020)

Featured image source: In the image on top right corner naming Shuttlestock account CNN Money

Leave A Light On – A Brexit Day Ramble

(Featured image description: A candle burning.)

Content warnings for: mention of abusive UK government policies, mentions of, including a list, of various forms of bigotry (no detail), colonialism, fascism

Hi all,

Today the UK will officially leave the EU. I’ve had a lot of feelings over it all – mainly bitterness most recently which led to my writer’s block. I’m gonna elaborate on my thoughts a bit more – firstly because of self-care but also to hopefully illustrate those outside the UK just how dire the situation is.

There were many reasons why – and I try not to get political in my blog outside of my main topics – but I’d like to elaborate now that the time is right.

Confirmation of many forms of internalised bigotry

Brexit from the start is a far-right project being pushed by bigots and vulture capitalists hoping to asset strip a ruined UK. This only became more obvious over time as the racists came out of the woodwork and the country became more toxic. The most obvious targets for this are anybody deemed seen as foreign but this especially applies to:

  • People of colour (points at Windrush)
  • EU/EEA citizens
  • Women
  • LGBTQ+ people
  • Trans people (points at UK mainstream media and GIC waiting times)
  • Disabled people (points at UN report of Tory austerity)
  • Autistic people (points at ATU crisis)
  • Jewish people
  • Muslims
  • Anyone else who supports globalism and progressive politicxs

For the world, this brought to the centre what many had long believed – that the UK is a deeply bigoted country that won’t come to terms with this reality. This especially applies to racism and the UK’s history as a colonial power which also isn’t taught in schools here. However other systematic biases like sexism and ableism are also ignored.

Many British people are also implicitly xenophobic having closed their minds off to other cultures and backgrounds – even on their own continent. This clearly shows how fewer people in the UK take advantage of the many freedoms globalisation has to offer when they can get access to it.

It is also equally baffling to outsiders because they can see things clearly where British people can’t. It’s similar to American gun culture where the world sees the lack of gun control in the USA as a problem and many Americans themselves do not. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had conversations with people from around the world about Brexit with them making comments implying confusion at what we’ve voted for. Brexit destroys the positive image the UK once had and overall this is a very good thing. Because now it means British people can start cleaning up their act which leads me to…

Most people were not informed enough

This is by far the biggest source of frustration for me. You’d think after four years people would have woke up and realised that the Brexit they were promised is all lies, but no far from it. Many people refuse to accept they are misinformed and in my experience has led to a lot of ad hominem attacks and a lot of stress.

Thing is, I’m not even mad at more informed people who voted Leave in 2016 by default because there are valid criticisms of the EU (such as it’s racist immigration policy towards refugees as well as how they handled Greece’s financial woes). There are legit reasons to want to leave the EU not based on lies and anybody claiming the EU is perfect is lying.

Hence I can forgive those who voted Leave in 2016 and even endorsed it up till 2018. However, I find it difficult to comprehend why people continue to endorse them even now. This showed in 2019 the election win by the now fascist Conservative party having been massively endorsed across the country including former Labour seats. The various domestic issues blamed on the EU by the Tories/media were not caused by them but by the various failures of right-wing governments over the last 40 years but especially those in power since 2010.

I’d go as far as to argue that the 2016 referendum should never have happened because the average person didn’t know enough about the EU and all other relevant fields to have a credible opinion. An uninformed electorate is dangerous because they are easy to manipulate and that is exactly what happened.

People like to think they know more about something than they actually do. Only when they are actually sat down and forced to engage with said info do they begin to understand. This isn’t their fault that this hadn’t happened to them when they were in school but it is their responsibility to do so now. Thing is few people realised this back then including myself – and if I did I’d advocate the same thing then.

The faults of the left

I do think the other parties share some of the blame though – specifically for not forming a temporary alliance that could have helped salvage seats, stop Brexit democratically (or enable a more humane one) and implement electoral reform. However, I also feel the left should have adopted a more simplistic message that the average person can understand easily, rote learn and then pass onto the others. This is the same tactic the right does and it clearly works. The only difference the left has to do is base this in truth. And by truth, I mean to simplify the messages we’ve been trying to communicate for years.

From my autistic ass of a perspective, I find this frustrating to admit. Like, don’t people want to inform themselves of the facts and be lifelong learners? Autistic people love learning in-depth – this is the foundation of what doctors label our passions as “special interests.” There is a reason that our passion is belittled in this way and I’ll explain it because, alongside internalised ableism, there’s another reason too.

The fact is though most people – especially non-autistic people and the politically apathetic in general – will not learn about things in depth. They don’t want to research deeply. They don’t want to think critically. They don’t want to do any of that – if anything they like doing the bare minimum if not anything at all. Whatever you think of Jeremy Corbyn, he embodied this approach in how he does politics and it’s one reason why he could never get into number 10. I loved it, many others loved it especially those who agreed with him.

However British people don’t want this style of politics. They want oversimplified narratives they can rote learn. They don’t want masses of information. They don’t want to feel uncomfortable at being held to account because they like feeling comfortable with what they believe in. They see such extensive research as a sign of difference as well as being unnecessary. For the left to win, they need to pander to this to an extent. Obviously, it will not be possible to not make them uncomfortable – nor should it – but relying on good faith and the willingness to learn will not work. It never did – especially to the anti-SJWs already on the verge of becoming fascists.

The needs of minorities have been repeatedly ignored

Additionally, as marginalised people, our needs are even less likely to get met. Being out of the EU means we will be even further impacted by Brexit particularly through divergence in standards, higher costs and further human rights losses. And under a far-right government who has already gone a decade without being held accountable for killing off large proportions of the poor and minorities through their policies, this is a terrible prospect indeed. Many people who endorse Brexit won’t accept that this has been happening and disability rights groups have been saying this for years. Seeing as people won’t accept the reality that Brexit brings on everyone due to what I mentioned already, what chances do marginalised people have?

This is before factoring in how they intersect. For example, many disabled people will no longer be able to travel to the EU because it will just be too expensive as all travellers will now have to buy travel insurance before leaving the country. It is also even less likely anybody diagnosed with a disability will be able to permanently live abroad now freedom of movement will end which is something that upsets me the most as that has been a lifelong dream of mine. This is before mentioning how it makes things harder for LGBTQ+ people as most EU countries are largely LGBT friendly thus ruling out a lot of safe destinations.

The end of the Union

This is inevitable at this point because the interests of the rest of the UK have been ignored with Westminster overriding everything. In the UK, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have devolved administrations who have been shut out of the approval process and gone as far to vote formally showing disapproval of the exit deal. It has no legal bearing but it’s symbolic.

With a border going down in the Irish Sea it means Northern Ireland is now economically closer to the Republic of Ireland than the rest of the UK. It’s a mess and it risks flaring up past tensions the island faces especially when hard borders are put in place. That will make the case for reunification difficult to ignore. The history behind this is colonial related so again the average English person has no idea of the history here.

The SNP (Scotland’s most popular party) are also pushing hard in Scotland for another independence referendum because the circumstances have clearly changed. Scotland voted to stay in the Union in 2014 due to promises of having access to the EU. Scotland also voted to remain in 2016. Obviously, this is no longer the case hence there is the democratic case to try again. Whether this will lead to independence sooner or later is what the question is now.

The effect on me – lots and lots of self-care

As a young person, I feel that my life chances have been scuppered by bigots that won’t accept that globalism is the future and are the values that my generation and younger have grown up with. We will lose the most and it is tragic that so many simply do not know what they’ve endorsed. We want to travel and see the world and now it has become so much harder. Like many British people, I don’t have dual citizenship and I wish I did. Unless you are born into a rich, privileged family who can afford to relocate there is so much that is now lost.

I’m at the point where I’m having to exercise a lot of self-care. I can’t keep engaging with diehard Leavers for the sake of my mental health. I’m putting myself first for the most part – which means getting my life back on track so I can get out of England and hopefully the UK in the next couple of years once the Union falls apart. Marginalised people moving out of England prior to this may be the only way they will be able to escape the Tories in Westminster.

The other exception to this is through supporting and showing solidarity with those who didn’t vote for this and especially have the most to lose. I hope people understand why I am taking this approach – especially due to my current personal circumstances.

This is the start of the UK’s path to rejoining the EU

Alongside the part I mentioned earlier about the world seeing the UK’s internalised bigotry, the other thing that will lead to rejoining becoming popular would be the English at large finding out first hand what leaving the EU as of now actually means. I say English, particularly because a lot of the denial comes from the English because they voted for this. They will have to experience first hand what people were trying to warn would happen. This includes the possible implementation of chlorinated chicken, a privatised NHS and other unpopular policies.

The second thing would be the implementation of the proposed European associate citizenship scheme which would ease tensions. This means British people will have the choice as to whether to keep the rights and freedoms of the EU and not have rights taken away that they didn’t consent to.

I for one would be more willing to accept Brexit if a pathway becomes available for me to keep European citizenship rights and be able to travel and attempt to live, work and retire in 27 other countries as I do now. Additionally, young people like myself will eventually lead the charge for the UK rejoining the EU when the time is right.

I’ll stop there for today but I hope people now understand a bit more. I’m gonna go out tonight and distract myself from the sadness that is leaving, but until then please leave a light on for the UK, fellow Europeans?

Milla xx

When You’re Trans, Autistic and Homeless, Finding a Place to Live is Almost Impossible

CN for transphobia, ableism, abuse, legal discrimination, intrusive questions, executive function

Hi all,

Apologies for the inactivity on here for the last several weeks. Today I’m going to talk a bit about the issues I’ve had accessing housing – which is something I’ve had to deal with extensively over the last several months. In short, my living situation at home with my parents became toxic (mainly due to blatant transphobia, ableism and overall abuse, but that’s for another time). The major reason it took me so long to leave home were because I am hitting systematic barriers that makes it difficult for me to access any form of help. That’s not just my words. It’s the words of one of many housing support staff I’ve been in contact with. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.

I’m going address them one by one:

Fear of the unknown:

One of the major things that stopped me from leaving sooner was the anxiety caused by the uncertainty of what would happen next once I leave. Where would I go and who would I stay with? How would I be able to cope on the streets if that came to pass? In a way, staying in the toxic household is better due to the routine and certainty of having a place to sleep. This is one reason autistic people find it difficult to escape abusive situations in general.

Most housing services have inaccessible contact methods:

Due to all the stress my functioning ability had decreased significantly. One way this showed is that I could no longer use the phone even to call people I had called before already. This meant I could not access emergency accommodation in my area for one as all of them had phone numbers only and email addresses are harder to find if they are publically available.

Additionally, when I did email housing services they are either slow to reply or don’t reply at all. This included a UK LGBT housing charity I referred myself to in good faith they’d get back to me but they never did. If a housing provider does not offer an accessible contact method they are from the fact excluding those with disabilities from applying to their services and condemning them to their deaths as a result.

Additionally, emergency accommodation is potentially unsafe for marginalised people because of the chances of being trapped in an even more toxic environment. This applies to the physical environment as well as potentially the people staying there. Hence not being able to verify this in advance means it’s a no-go for many people.

Women’s refuge services have transphobic policies:

Here is a bit of a sticky topic. In the UK’s Equality Act 2010, there are legitimate exceptions in the Act that let services to discriminate against minorities if it’s a “proportionate means to achieve a legitimate aim.” This includes potential discrimination against trans people when accessing refuges on the grounds of their gender. Or more specifically, their genitals. When i tried to get access to a women’s refuge in the summer, I visited once to sign up, but I had to disclose I’m transgender in part because the form required it – but also because I did not fully pass at the time and there was no way I could have gotten away with lying on the form.

As a result, I got barred from face to face contact with the refuge as a result due to the fact I’m pre-op (irrespective of the facts that many trans people don’t have surgery and that surgery isn’t something I could get access to for years if at all). They did offer signposting and limited telephone/email support but it upset me so much I am turned off refuges for life. They told me that this is due to their policy which ended up being based on reasons relating to biological differences and safety concerns which shows fundamental misunderstanding of trans issues at best and bad faith transphobia at worst.

Not able to rent privately:

There are a few reasons for this and many of them relate to personal circumstances which I will not elaborate on. However, I will detail some notable issues that affect people like me in general. the biggest reason is because I was trying to hold down a full-time job. I gave up on getting help to escape in the summer so I ended up banking on the money from a job to help me move however this was not possible long-term.
I did not have the energy or executive function to juggle trying to find a room as well as full-time work with a commute. It was too much for me having had to spend my lunch breaks and much of my non-working hours recovering. This meant I could not view rooms and thus could not make any progress.

Other access issues are that I could not work out what listings on the housing sites like Spare Room were legitimate plus many landowners specifically ask people to call them to enquire. This meant I had a lot of access issues even finding places to view so contacting them were largely inaccessible just like housing services. That plus the ensuring anxiety and lack of support meant processing the listings for red flags became very difficult. Same applies for finding houses that are trans friendly.

Finally, there is another legal loophole that meant many more listings weren’t accessible to me. Many of the listings were by live-in landlords and if the “small premises exception” applies they can discriminate on all minority characteristics (bar race) under the guise of a “preference.”
The conditions where this applies are the following (based on the info here):

  • The landlord or a relative of theirs will be living in another part of the same property and intend to continue living there
  • The landowner (or their relative) share part of the property with the other residents. This doesn’t include common accessways (like corridors and stairs) and common storage areas
  • The most likely shared parts will be kitchens or bathrooms; and either:
  • The property includes accommodation for at least one other household, which is separately let, but cannot accommodate more than two other separately let households; or
  • The property is not normally sufficient to provide residential accommodation for more than six people (in addition to the landowner or their relative and their household members)

Seeing as many of the listings I found fit into those categories – alongside the fact I couldn’t pass fully then – meant that I had to rule out a lot of listings. As many landowners are older, more privileged cis people and thus more likely to misunderstand, I did not feel safe putting myself into that situation which is before considering my autism-related needs. I very highly doubt I am alone in this although I can’t confirm personally.

The system for finding accommodation for housing related support:

The current system in the UK for someone who needs housing support to fill out a form via the council stating the needs people have and where they’d like to stay. Then housing providers can view applications on their systems so that if they can contact the applicant to request an interview. I haven’t been to an interview so I don’t know how that goes down, just the initial application meeting for one provider. In that meeting I was asked more about my needs as well as what steps I’ve took to undergo transitioning which includes social, legal and medical. I didn’t particularly want to give any details on the medical side – and the person I saw was very apologetic about having to ask it – but I believe that is a requirement too. Regardless, in the end that didn’t go anywhere as they didn’t have room for me either. However that was only one provider so hopefully there are more out there.

Being declared as unintentionally homeless:

The gist of this is that if I’m declared as intentionally homeless, the council would not help me and this would affect what support I’d get. It’s the same for any homeless person even though the circumstances will be different each time. My circumstances of fleeing abuse is one of a few instances where somebody leaving home when they aren’t being kicked out is not becoming intentionally homeless. It did mean that me and my parents had to meet with a council rep to have some kind of “mediation” even though I knew going in it wasn’t going to be feasible. It was annoying but I entertained the mediation idea and it paid off.

Wider political context:

There is a housing shortage in the UK and has been for some time thanks to the Conservative party. Nowhere near enough affordable social housing exists as the demand for that considerably outstrips supply. The same also applies to supported housing and other types of accommodation. Additionally, there is a lot of homes that are lying empty due to being owned by the mega rich and not occupied. Hence even if I was not marginalised I would still have some problems.

With all the above said, the only option left for me for now is to sofa surf and frankly if I didn’t have friends to help I would have been in a seriously bad place. And being autistic and trans even having friends is a privilege because social anxiety and dysphoria makes it hard for friendships to form.

In some ways, my experiences with my friends the past couple of months have somewhat restored my faith in humanity because it shows that people will step up where they can. However, it also shouldn’t be this way and that’s sad. It’s one reason I’ve written this post because it’s this kind of first hand testimony that spreads awareness of these issues so legal reform can be done. Most people are not even aware of these issues in any real detail especially if they are not involved in the disability, LGBTQ+ or housing communities. Hence I am providing some of the detail.

For me personally, I don’t know what the future holds. I’m hoping to no longer be homeless by the end of this year but I really can’t say for sure yet. Regardless, hopefully 2020 will be a happier, more prosperous year for me. Happy New Year to you all and hopefully 2020 is just as prosperous for you too.

Kind regards,
Milla xx

What I’ve Learned About Social Expectations At Work Since Starting My Job

(Featured image description: Multiple shots of people working at computer desks.)

Hi all,

I’m sure you are all aware of the problems autistic people face with employment. A major reason is the social aspect of the role – such as the unwritten rules in the workplace.

Without going into too much detail, my workplace is one of the more accommodating ones in the UK. However, it is also one of the more chaotic workplaces which means that I have had a lot of challenges to deal with. Fortunately, it is starting to get easier for me so I am going to spread the love.

Here is a list of what I’ve learned this week – with the help of my line manager who communicated this to me – so that other autistic people can better understand some of the unwritten workplace rules out there.

Rules won’t always be followed

This is a big one. Even in the most structured of workplaces – the rules and procedures in place often serve as guidelines rather than hard and fast rules (unless they are legal or health and safety-related). Rules will be bent depending on business need so it means that people cannot strictly enforce them as doing so risks making the business look bad.

An example I was given refers to whether figures of influence are involved. This can include company directors to celebrities and political/religious figures. In other words, rules are often bent so that the company or organisation save face. Did somebody submit something a bit late? Well depending on who the guests are that work will be prioritised.

An individual’s actions have wide-reaching consequences on the whole team

This is important to understand because this is something that managers and other staff pick up on even if the individual concerned doesn’t. This is also used to factor in things like performance reviews. In other words, the bigger picture is something that all members of the team need to understand.

For me, I am currently not fully trained in my role and because of this other members of my team are picking up some of the things that I am supposed to be doing. Yet I had absolutely no idea until this was communicated to me directly. I only fully understood once I was given a concrete example of something, I should be doing but I’ve not been trained on yet.

Initiative is expected

By this, I mean that workers are expected to be able to think for themselves on how to solve situations and not ask too many questions. Initially, this was quite confusing for me because I thought that if I don’t know what to do, I should be asking questions? Yet apparently, I was asking too many questions because it meant that my colleague was basically doing my work (and I was just typing it).

I think this stems in part due to how much support autistic people have or not. For example, for the few autistic people in school that got proper support from a young age may have been constantly handheld and not fully developed the initiative required for many jobs.

Social anxiety and a fear of making mistakes also play a part here. One reason for this is that many autistic people have learned over the years that their judgement for social situations is incorrect hence their judgement is not trustworthy. When I say “incorrect,” I mean that as a value judgement as to how an NT would see things. When it comes to other autistic/neurodivergent people, more people are likely to see the judgement as correct (or at least something they would do).

Meetings should always be prioritised

This section can be summarised in a few simple points. The first is that if somebody invites somebody else to a work-related meeting they are expected to attend. This applies regardless of the context from verbal agreements to Outlook invites. This also applies if the meeting sounds informal and/or optional such as a “coffee with [senior director].” I had a meltdown that day and was volatile so I thought as this coffee meeting was optional hence, I didn’t have to go so I didn’t. I ended up getting told off for it.

Additionally, the individual employee is also expected to take responsibility for their own timetable. One reason why is because other staff have their own workloads so cannot be responsible for others too. Fortunately, Outlook has aids that can help with executive functioning such as alarms and reminders. This is not so helpful for making sure employees remember meetings first thing in the morning so other reminders (ie. Using tools like Amazon Alexa) as well as a daily reminder to check the calendar is what helps me.

It’s impossible to understand everything that’s happening

In the world of work, so much goes on that unless somebody is senior management, it is impossible to know everything that goes on and how people are expected to behave. Part of this is due to confidentiality obligations however it can also be down to the fact that things are generally communicated on a “need-to-know” basis.

Hence a skill that will be expected of staff is to know when to ask for more information and when to just accept what you’ve been told. Usually, when someone says that “it’s private and/or confidential” or “only senior staff have access” that is a clear sign that lower-level staff are not to dig. Even many autism-friendly workplaces have these expectations.

This also applies to social situations. Yes, some managers may make decisions that seem strange but if they have a track record of meaning well and aren’t trying to be malicious their advice is worth following. Not just because they are the manager but also because they understand better how everything works.

The line manager acts as a communicator for any problems

One thing I’ve greatly struggled with over the years is that people won’t talk to me directly about the problems they have with me or my behaviour. For personal relationships, this is obviously a serious issue however this is not the case for workplace relationships in many contexts.

This is because the role of the line manager is considered important. Basically, subordinates tell their line managers anything that is bothering them. This includes how other employees are negatively impacting on them. This doesn’t just include the usual bad things but also includes things that are causing them to have difficulties doing their work such as asking too many questions that I mentioned earlier.

This is nothing personal. It is not a personal failure or anything like that. It is because this is the unwritten social rule of many workplaces that employees are taught to follow. Additionally, line managers often undergo specific training on management that lower-level staff often do not.

The boundaries blur a bit more when it is a personal relationship of some sort. Usually, this applies if somebody knows them outside of work or the colleagues have worked together for a long time. Hence colleagues may talk to each other directly rather than going to the line manager.

So in other words, these are some of the many ways that work relationships are different from personal relationships. Hence autistic people can’t simply cut and paste expectations from personal relationships into a workplace context even though that is the logical thing an autistic person may do. That’s all for today. I hope to be able to share more tips like this soon.

Milla xx